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Inquest hears Dreamworld ride operator ‘pressured’ not to talk to Police after fatalities

Inquest hears Dreamworld ride operator ‘pressured’ not to talk to Police after fatalities
June 21, 2018

A junior ride operator at Dreamworld has told a Coronial inquest she felt "pressured" by a senior park manager not to speak to Queensland Police after the Thunder River Rapids Ride tragedy in which four people were killed.

Courtney Williams was one of two staff running the ride at the theme park at the Gold Coast theme park in October 2016 when two rafts collided and the four - Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett, Roozi Araghi and Cindy Low – were thrown to their deaths.

As reported by the ABC, Williams told the inquest she was instructed by a senior park manager at Dreamworld not to speak to Queensland Police after the tragedy, but said she later gave a statement to officers at a station.

At the inquest, Barrister Toby Nielsen for the Araghi family asked Williams “so he told you not to say anything to anyone, don't give any statements and just to wait over near the side? Is that correct?" Williams replied "yes.”

“Neilsen asked "did you feel under pressure not to talk to police?"

William replised again “yes.”

Earlier she told the inquest, she only had about "an hour and a half" of training before she commenced her shift on the day of the deaths.

Williams said she arrived for her shift at 9:15am on 25th October 2016, and was told she was rostered as a level two operator.

She said she had not performed that role before and was given "about an hour and a half" of training.

Williams told the inquest she did not remember being shown how to shut down the ride and said she was told by a trainer about the emergency stop button who said, "don't worry about it, you don't need to use it".

She said she "didn't know" the emergency button would stop the conveyor from moving, adding “it was my first day, I wasn't confident operating the control panel.”

She told the inquest she did not believe she had "sufficient training on parts I now know I should have".

She testified she thought the ride would shut down automatically if the large water pumps feeding the ride failed.

Williams said she was never told by supervisors that there had been issues with the water pumps on the ride previously, but had heard about issues through general conversations at work.

She said she had her back to the conveyor and noticed her colleague Peter Nemeth's facial expression change and realised something was wrong.

Williams advised "I heard noises behind me … and that's when I saw the raft coming down.”

Counsel assisting the coroner, Rhiannon Helsen asked "did you think about using the e-stop?"

Williams answered "I had completely forgotten about the e-stop.”

Under cross-examination by barrister Matthew Hickey for Cindy Low's family, Williams was asked what she would have done if she had known the emergency stop, within reach of her, halted the conveyor within two seconds.

Williams responded "I would have waited for my senior operator to tell me to press it.”

She testified she had never had any emergency, rescue, first aid or CPR training at Dreamworld and had only participated in fire drills.

Hickey also asked “were you ever asked by supervisors if you thought training was satisfactory?"

Williams replied "I was never asked, no."

She also told the court the day of the fatalities was the last day of her employment at Dreamworld.

Earlier, Dremworld Senior Ride Operator Peter Nemeth told the inquest it was "impossible" to manage all of the responsibilities required of him while loading a new raft, with 36 checks required in less than a minute.

The court heard the level-three ride operator had to supervise his less experienced colleague, ensure seatbelts were secure on guests, monitor visitor lines, monitor raft movements, watch the conveyor, watch the large water pumps, ensure there were no obstructions on the ride and tell people to "smile" for the camera, amongst other tasks.

Hickey asked "I suggest … it is impossible for a … human being to do all of those things within less than a minute?"

Nemeth replied "yes, I agree."

The court heard Nemeth was never trained to deal with potential "catastrophic" events at the theme park or in first aid, CPR and in rescueing passengers who might become trapped in the ride.

Barrister Steven Whybrow, acting on behalf of the family of Goodchild and Dorsett, told Nemeth "as far as they are concerned, I have been instructed to tell you that they don't hold you in the least bit responsible for what happened that day".

During cross-examination, barrister Toby Nielsen for the Araghi family suggested Nemeth hit a slow stop button for the conveyor 10 seconds after the two rafts had collided, which the operator denied.

Nemeth testified he hit the button before the crash occurred.

Nielsen asked "is it possible you hit the wrong buttons in a panic?"

Nemeth replied "I can't comment on that.”

Under cross-examination by barrister James Bell for Ardent Leisure, Nemeth was questioned about his training as a level three operator.

The court heard the ride operator completed one full day of training with an instructor who then returned on the second day to supervise him opening and closing the ride.

Bell asked “did you feel comfortable, you had no further questions?"

Nemeth replied “yes.”

He told the court he had access to supervisors at any time and felt comfortable approaching them.

Previous incidents

January 2001 - Collision of rafts due to operator error
October 2004 - A visitor fell into the water while unloading when rafts bumped together
August 2005 - Three rafts mounted up together at the same time
19th October 2016 - Water pump failed but nobody hurt
25th October 2016 - Two water pumps failed at 11:50am and 1:09pm
25th October 2016 - Fatal incident at 2:00pm when pump failed and two rafts collided on conveyor

18th June 2018  - CORONIAL INQUEST BEGINS INTO 2016 DREAMWORLD FATALITIES

13th June 2018 - CHINESE WATERPARK BOOSTS VILLAGE ROADSHOW PERFORMANCE: ARDENT COMPLETES BOWLING DIVISION SALE

3rd April 2018 - VICTIMS OF DREAMWORLD RIDE ‘DIED ALMOST INSTANTLY’

18th February 2018 - ARDENT LEISURE CHAIRMAN EXCITED BY DREAMWORLD’S PROSPECTS THROUGH 2018 

2nd February 2018 - ARDENT LEISURE REPORTS SLOWER THAN EXPECTED GROWTH IN DREAMWORLD VISITATION

25th January 2018 - DREAMWORLD REOPENS POPULAR WATER RIDE 

20th December 2017 - ARDENT LEISURE SELLS BOWLING CENTRES DIVISION FOR $160 MILLION

9th November 2017 - ARDENT LEISURE CHIEF EXECUTIVE SIMON KELLY TO LEAVE AFTER JUST FOUR MONTHS IN ROLE

9th November 2017 - DREAMWORLD REJECTS CRITICISM OF ANIMAL CARE AT TIGER ISLAND ATTRACTION

26th October 2017 - DREAMWORLD MARKS RIDE TRAGEDY ANNIVERSARY WITH QUIET STAFF COMMEMORATION

21st October 2017 - QUEENSLAND POLICE SAY NO STAFF SHOULD BE PROSECUTED OVER 2016 DREAMWORLD DEATHS 

16th October 2017 - QUEENSLAND PARLIAMENT PASSES INDUSTRIAL MANSLAUGHTER LAWS IN WAKE OF DREAMWORLD FATALITIES 

27th August 2017 - DREAMWORLD TRAGEDY HIGHLIGHTS LEGAL DUTY OF CARE FOR THEME PARK GUESTS

23rd August 2017 - QUEENSLAND TO IMPLEMENT NEW SAFETY LAWS FOLLOWING DREAMWORLD TRAGEDY REPORT

11th July 2017 - DREAMWORLD BATTLES INCONSISTENT ATTENDANCES AND FALLING REVENUES

30th June 2017 - DREAMWORLD LAUNCHES AFTER DARK THRILL EXPERIENCE 

24th May 2017 - ARDENT LOOKS TO QUASH DREAMWORLD SALE RUMOURS, EXPLORES SITE REZONING PLAN

9th May 2017 - DREAMWORLD SUFFERS FURTHER ATTENDANCE AND REVENUE SLUMP 

16th April 2017 - CONSULTING ENGINEER REBUTS AUSTRALIAN WOMEN’S WEEKLY RIDE SAFETY ‘INVESTIGATION’

4th April 2017 - ARDENT LEISURE CHIEF EXECUTIVE ‘APPEARED TO BE DUCKING FOR COVER’ FOLLOWING DREAMWORLD FATALITIES 

13th March 2017 - PARKZ WEBSITE LAUNCHES SUPPORT OUR THEME PARKS CAMPAIGN 

16th January 2017 - PERCEPTION OF SAFETY AND SECURITY BOOST AUSTRALIA’S INTERNATIONAL TOURISM GROWTH 

10th December 2016 - GUESTS TRICKLE BACK AS DREAMWORLD REOPENS 

29th October 2016 - QUEENSLAND GOVERNMENT TO UNDERTAKE ‘SAFETY BLITZ’ ON THEME PARKS


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